Jaime

I am the director of Veterans Affairs for the City of Jersey City. My responsibility is to help veterans who come to city hall looking for benefits. Our mayor made the Office of Veteran’s Affairs, and I became the Director about eight yeas ago. The city never had an office. We are not associated with the VA. Our mayor, who is a former Marine, he died, he had a heart attack. But before he died, he created the Office of Veterans Affairs. I filled out the application, and was able to do the things I want to do. As the Director of Veterans Affairs, my job is to help veterans, regardless of what war. I never close my doors. I’m always here to help veterans.

I spent 14 months in Vietnam. Four months I spent at the hospital because I was seriously wounded with a hand grenade;

I was born in Puerto Rico, but I came to Jersey City when I was two years old in 1952. I spent 14 months in Vietnam. Four months I spent at the hospital because I was seriously wounded with a hand grenade; I caught about 50 pieces of that hand grenade. When it explodes, it is red hot. The only part left of my pants was the part underneath my belt; my pants were blown off…and I caught about 50-60 pieces. Then they sent me to the hospital; it took me five months to recover. After I recovered they sent me back to Vietnam and back to the bush. I learned a lot though. In America, we say we lost 60,000 Americans, but we killed more than two million Vietnamese. Martin Luther King said that the moral arch of the universe is tall but it bends towards justice. So, one of these days we’re going to have to pay for what we’ve done to the Vietnamese.

I’ve been back to Vietnam since then, in 2003 and 2004. They treated me with the highest sense of courtesy and respect; I was surprised and happy. Now we’re going to do sister cities. I sponsored eight sister cities, when I was a councilman in Jersey City, in different parts of the world. I was a councilman for 12 years. During that time, I worked with people at the United Nations and I was able to visit over 25 countries. Every time I went to a country I found out that the people there like Americans. What they don’t like are the policies of the Mr. George Bush, and so forth. In 1970, I went to Washington for the March against the Vietnam War. We had about 3-4,000 people.

I spoke to New York, February the 15th, four or five years ago. There were three to four million people here, in front of the United Nations. I was a speaker and they give you like 2 minutes—you have to time your speech out. I spoke to half a million people. They had these giant screens. I was there with this woman, Sarandon, she’s an actress, Richard Dreyfuss, Martin Luther King Jr. III. I was there representing the Veterans for Peace at that time, because I was a member. The national President lived in Jersey City; he passed away about two years ago. To be honest with you, I’ve been lost since then. David Cline was his name, and he would be here. He’s not here because he passed away, but I’m here for him, and I’m here for all the veterans that see the injustice that we fought against.

As a veteran, and other veterans I represent. We are behind you. There are a lot of veterans that support you. This is why we went to war: to have the right to assembly, to have the right of free speech. If we lose that, then our country is lost.

This is my fourth time here, supporting the people of Occupy Wall Street. When Occupy Wall Street began, I was very enthused because I saw young people coming to life and getting involved. So, I hope that it stays this way. I have another colleague who’s also a Marine and Vietnam veteran. I said, “Charles, I got to go to New York to Wall Street.” It’s the third time I’m coming down. He was in the Marine Corps longer than I was, but both of us preach nonviolent civil disobedience.

I am happy because, when the Vietnam War was over, the peace movement disappeared until 1991, when we first went into Iraq. After the Vietnam War protests, it was 20 years of nothing. These groups here, they could be here for 20 years, but it’s not going to be for nothing because we already have Wall Street, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, and across the world. More than 100 countries are supporting what we are doing here. We watch television and we see people getting sprayed with tear gas and so forth. I just saw yesterday in California, those kids were just sitting there holding arms; they weren’t doing anything to anybody. There was no reason for that police officer to spray these young people. But, if that’s what we have to face, that is what we have to face. When I went to Vietnam, we paid with our lives. Now, Vietnam is over for over 35 years; look at what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are spending billions and billions of dollars every week; that money could go to build houses for affordable housing, senior citizens, they need a place to live, and really, what we want to do, is destroy the culture of corruption that we see in New York City.

I know one gentleman who left from Merrill Lynch; he took $450 million dollars. Now a few guys get that amount while everybody else gets a little bit. These people here, we’re not rich, middle or lower-middle income. Young people have to keep the struggle going. If we lose the struggle, what are we going to have? Go home and live the kind of life that we don’t want to live. I’m happy about what we are doing here and whenever I get the chance to come, I will come. I will talk to students and other people; the movement goes on.

I can come here today because it is important. As long as these people are here, I’ll keep on coming back. We could use more support from nonprofit organizations. I was going down the list the other day; for all these organizations, these philanthropic organizations, which give millions of dollars to all kinds of movements, we need to appeal to them because we’re not rich here. Most of the people who are here are middle to lower-middle class. We have to work together, and if we do that, we will be successful.

 It doesn’t matter if I’m Puerto Rican and you’re Jewish, it doesn’t make any difference. Your blood is red. Your mother cries salty tears, just like the mother of a Palestinian person who was killed.

As a veteran, and other veterans I represent. We are behind you. There are a lot of veterans that support you. This is why we went to war: to have the right to assembly, to have the right of free speech. If we lose that, then our country is lost. Being involved in something like that, it teaches you a lot. We need to get together and help each other. Me, by myself, I can’t do anything. But, you and me we can do more than one person. And all the people that are here can do more than five people. But we have to stick together. We have to network. We have to organize. If we do that right, we will win this battle. It doesn’t matter if I’m Puerto Rican and you’re Jewish, it doesn’t make any difference. Your blood is red. Your mother cries salty tears, just like the mother of a Palestinian person who was killed. We have to stay together because there is strength in numbers. I’m not talking about physical strength; there is a psychological strength. But we can’t give up. Even if it means we will have to go to jail; then we go to jail. We’re here for peaceful, nonviolent disobedience. If the cops have to arrest us, fine. We will take those risks.

First of all, I’d like to see this movement win on a large scale. On a smaller scale, I’m trying to teach my two sons. My youngest one has three kids. They live in Florida. I called them from here and sent them videos and so forth. I’d like to be able to convince my sons that this is the right struggle. That we are fighting for the rights of people. That we are fighting for the first amendment to speak and gather. Unfortunately, the powers that be do not agree with us. I’m sort of disappointed with Mayor Bloomberg because when he first came out he said, “No. Let them stay in the park. We don’t want to kick them out.” But, time goes on, other people take over, things change, and he changed his position. But, I think he understands what we’re doing here, and a lot of people who are here understand why we’re here. This is, to a certain extent, a life or death struggle because we are fighting for the future of our country. That is more important than anything, almost.

What I would like to see from this is an education to the people who are not here. People like Newt Gingrich who said that we should take a bath and then go look for a job. He’s a jerkoff. He has no respect for regular people. Show me where the jobs are. I have a lot of Veterans who are looking for jobs and I can send them. That is part of the propaganda that they are having against this movement. No matter what they say, they cannot destroy this movement because this movement is in the hearts of people in the United States and about 100 countries. We started something here that now is practiced by people all over the world. That to me is a very great accomplishment. It’s not just us.

My name is Jaime.

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